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Christian Union: The Magazine
December 5, 2022

A Princeton Junior Shares First-hand Experience

By Cynthia Makachi

It’s been a little over two years since I started my freshman year at Princeton in fall of 2020, and, though it was anything but normal, I smile back at what the Lord has done. 

My first year took place between the four walls of my childhood bedroom. If I wanted to get to know my classmates or become involved in extracurricular groups, I had to intentionally join a zoom meeting, unmute myself from time to time, and not run away from the awkwardness of silence as others decided if they felt brave enough to speak too. 

I’m not sure exactly how it happened, but before I knew it, I had befriended a handful of fellow freshmen and upperclassmen, some of whom I had met by attending CU Nova events. In spite of the unusual circumstances, I  was slowly getting plugged into the Christian community on Princeton’s (virtual) campus. 

Coming back to campus this year in late August for the CU Nova pre-retreat was also a new and unfamiliar experience. This was the first year of my Princeton career that I wasn’t required to wear a mask everywhere I went and had to stay six feet away from beloved friends and mentors. It was also the first time in three years that CU Nova was able to have a pre-retreat to equip its student leaders for the Freshman Campaign—a month-long initiative to welcome first-years and invite them into the CU Nova community. 

princeton bonfire

Because of the pandemic, I came to pre-retreat not knowing much about what Freshman Campaign was or what it was supposed to look like. The Class of 2023 was the last class to experience the Freshman Campaign events in a normal fashion as incoming freshmen, but they had never been in the position to execute the campaign as their first year was interrupted by Covid. 

With these realities before me, I was excited to leave behind the limitations of the pandemic, but I was also nervous about the task my classmates and I had before us. 

Pre-retreat turned out to be an incredible immersion experience—both in time away with my peers to worship the Lord and reconnect, and to learn how to effectively plan and execute a successful Freshman Campaign. I, and the other 20+ students on the retreat, discussed past successful strategies to create a friendly environment  for freshmen,  prepared various events and activities to offer freshmen  the opportunity to get to know Princeton’s CU Nova community. 

The pre-retreat also made it possible for the classes of 2025, 2024, and 2023 to have time to bond with one another, pray for each other, and grow together spiritually. One moment that I was extremely grateful for was when our ministry fellows took the time to pray for each student. While they prayed, we sang and worshiped together. The harmonious sounds of praise and prayer filling the room that night reminded me that I have brothers and sisters alongside me who are also desperate to know and serve Jesus, who loves  us so much both as individuals and as a body. I left that night encouraged to deepen my own relationship with the Lord and to share my gratitude  for CU Nova with the incoming class of freshmen. 

Six weeks  have passed since the pre-retreat and it has been such a joy being a part of the Freshman Campaign and being able to meet the Class of 2026. We had a range of events in the month of September like weekly dinners, bonfires, game nights, and other opportunities for freshmen to learn more about the CU Nova  community. Though the campaign required a lot of time and effort, my classmates and I agree that it was time and energy well spent as we see the fruits of our labors—a new class of students who want to walk with Jesus during their years at Princeton. It has been a blessed time talking and laughing with freshmen and watching them become involved in different ministry teams.

In speaking with the freshmen who have gotten involved with CU Nova, something I hear again and again is their gratitude for CU Nova. 

One freshman that I have had the privilege to get to know said that they didn’t know what they would have done without CU Nova. Another freshman expressed similar sentiments, stating that they are glad to have found CU Nova because it has provided them with friends who are passionate about their faith and know what it is like to walk through life as a Christian. 

With the rest of the semester still on its way, I am excited to see how the freshmen continue to get involved and integrated into the CU Nova community and adapt to life at Princeton. I look forward to the many laughs, prayers, and memories that will be shared and trust that the Lord will continue to grow CU Nova as a community committed to growing in love for Jesus